By Lesley Magee
On the first Tuesday of October, a group of community members with diagnoses of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other mobility and cognitive challenges, along with their caregivers, got together at the Old School Community Gathering Place for their first Enhance Through Dance session.
Funded through Service Canada’s New Horizons program, the program consists of ten dance/movement therapy sessions, with separate concurrent caregiver information sessions. For both participants and caregivers, isolation can become a factor, and programming like this reduces isolation, bringing a newfound hope into people’s daily lives.
Dance/movement therapy is powerful but underutilized. According to the American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA), dance/movement therapy “is based on the principles that the mind and body are connected and that movement reflects patterns of thinking and feeling”.
This form of therapy can enhance patients’ quality of life and slow cognitive decline. For Parkinson’s patients, researchers believe that combining music and movement builds new neural pathways that enable improved signaling and movement, ultimately smoothing patients’ movements and reducing tremors.
At that first session in October, Certified Movement Analyst (CMA) and Dance/Movement therapist Karen Bradley got to work quickly making participants feel welcome and at ease in an activity that was completely new to all of them. When Karen begins an Enhance Through Dance session, she observes and inquires about whatever is going on with the participants on that day, which leads to the music and techniques she’ll use for that session. She develops the movement expressively for the group, observing how participants are moving and engaging with each other, bringing in humour, imagination, play and joyful interaction.
Karen says that in terms of immediate results, "These dance movement therapy sessions have been helpful in several ways: First, all participants say they are more relaxed and generally feel better physically at the end of the sessions. I see smiles and eye contact among the participants. They increasingly share their memories and current concerns, and the group is supportive and helpful to each other. On a very simple level, they are reminded that they do know how to stand up and walk without pain, and that they have movement choices they can make in a given situation."
While participants engage in movement and music, their caregivers meet with Carole Jones, who coordinates the caregiver support component of Enhance Through Dance. She brings in a different resource person each week with information on topics like nutrition, services, conflict management, grief and bereavement work, and resources available through organizations like Caregivers NS. While participants dance and feel better, caregivers work through the shared challenges they face in roles that are quite new to them. At the end of the morning, everyone comes back together for some much appreciated social time, sharing lunch, coffee, tea, and conversation.
Enhance Through Dance participants are eager to share what they’ve been doing with other members of the community, so the last session on Tuesday, December 10 from 10:00 am to 11:30 am is open to anyone interested in participating, whether living with a degenerative disease or not. The session will end with everyone sharing lunch. If you’d like to join us and experience this special program, please contact us at 902-889-2735 or email [email protected] so we can plan for more guests!
Note: Lesley Magee is the Community Service Worker and Office Administrator at the Old School Community Gathering Place